2012 ranked 10th warmest worldwide
The United States was ravaged by extreme heat and drought last year, but even across the globe, record temperatures led to what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center is calling the 10th warmest year since 1880. It was also the warmest year for the contiguous United States at an average of 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit, breaking the previous record set in 1998 by one degree. Since 2001, all twelve years have ranked among the top 14 warmest in record-keeping history. Last year also saw weather disasters amounting to over $1 billion in damages, including a drought across the Midwest that is expected to lead to rising food prices and Hurricane Sandy, which killed nearly 200 people and caused $80 billion in damages in New York and New Jersey alone.
21 arrested in unemployment scheme
Earlier this week, 21 people were charged with collecting fraudelent unemployment and disability benefits in a scheme amounting to over $5 million. After selling fake pay stubs to report false wages to the government, a California family is the center of the crime. The acting fake employees would subsequently be "laid off" in order to collect unemployment benefits and/or disability insurance in what is called a fictitious employer scheme. The scheme was set up as a farm labor company employing hundreds of agricultural workers, but when the fake employees were interviewed, many did not know the name of their employer and often cited wages which exceeded median pay in the industry. While the current charges are still just allegations, the Employment Development Department said any sign of a company taking advantage of the system "will not be tolerated." In the 2011 fiscal year, the U.S. Labor Department reported about 11 percent of jobless benefits paid out were determined to be mistakes, most attributed to fraud.
Horse DNA found in European hamburgers
On Tuesday, the Food Safety Authority out of Ireland reported that 10 out of 27 hamburger products analyzed contained horse DNA, and 23 tested positive for pig DNA. The hamburger meat, which had reached several supermarkets, originated in two Irish and one British meat processing plants. Nine out of the 10 burger samples featured horse DNA at very low levels, while Britain's largest retailer, Tesco, sold meat made up of 29 percent horse meat. While representatives at Tesco acknowledged customers' concerns about the quality of their food, the Food Safety Authority claimed the horse meat was not a threat to public health. Despite being safe, executives with the authority expressed puzzlement over the presence of horse meat. While pig meat is processed in the same facility as the burger meat, horse meat cannot plausibly be accounted for in the meat processing plants.
Competitors at the collegiate level are often called “student-athletes,” but the balance between the two can be hard for many students to maintain. At a Division III school, where students are not offered scholarship based on athletic abilities, the institution explicitly places a focus on academics.
While Rose-Hulman has been recognized for its academic accomplishments year after year, after fall quarter, 99 student-athletes for Fightin’ Engineer teams have found a way to perfect the balancing act.
Once their fall seasons drew to a close, senior Anna Lewer, junior Drew Belk, and sophomore Nick Buchta were selected by members of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) to be honored as Academic All-Americans.
Lewer, who captained the volleyball team during its successful run in HCAC action this year, has maintained a 3.70 GPA as a biomedical engineering student. Belk helped lead the soccer team to a regular season co-championship while earning a 3.74 GPA in his electrical engineering studies. Buchta fought hard on the offensive line while the football team finished its program-best eighth straight season at .500 or above, and his efforts in the classroom led him to a 4.0 GPA in mechanical engineering.
Athletes are nominated to CoSIDA by the sports information office based on their ability to be selected for the honor. To earn the accolade, a student-athlete must be “a key contributor to their athletic team’s success” and must have a minimum 3.3 GPA.
While the criteria seem vague, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information & Communications Kevin Lanke says the process is so competitive that students are rarely considered without at least a 3.70 GPA and typically have been selected to all-region or All-American teams for their athletic accomplishments.
Lanke adds that, due to the short list of explicit requirements, the process is very subjective.
“Each sports information director in NCAA Division III receives a ballot and votes for their ‘best of the best’ based on whatever criteria that sports information director determines,” Lanke says, adding that often the academic reputation of the students’ school frequently makes an impact.
“A high percentage of the Academic All-America selections are either from top engineering institutions or are engineering majors at other institutions. I think most sports information directors have a great deal of respect for the work it takes to major in engineering.”
Recent Fightin’ Engineer honorees agree that a high-class academic institution fosters a space for athletes to shine both on and off the court.
“Rose instills hard work, leadership, time management, and a little bit of craziness which translates into excellent performance in all aspects of students’ lives,” Lewer said, crediting previous upperclassmen as excellent tutors and role models for her younger self.
While introducing extracurricular activities in an already loaded schedule can have adverse effects on many students’ success, Lewer and Buchta agreed that a full-time commitment to their respective teams helped them focus their free time and stay organized.
And it’s clear that an environment like Rose-Hulman is perfect for a student looking to make an impact in the athletic realm. In each of the past 27 years, Rose has had at least one Academic All-American, a streak which leads all Division II and Division III institutions and follows just five Division I schools. Nebraska tops the list with an active streak of 42 years with at least one Academic All-American, and all five include engineering programs.
Honoring both facets of a student-athlete’s time, Buchta added that the streak of honors is “a real testament to the diversity and character of the students who go here.” In addition to managing the workload Rose-Hulman requires, he said the ability for so many to be athletically competitive “defies a lot of the stereotypes about engineering students.”
With 99 Academic All-Americans under its belt, Rose-Hulman could cross the century mark in the winter or spring seasons. Senior Liz Evans, reigning Division III high jump champion, has been named an Academic All-American the past two years.
Agreeing with Buchta’s sentiment that the honor says a lot about Rose-Hulman students who persevere “through the rigors of Rose,” Evans added that the streak is “just one of the many accolades of our student body over generations.”
As 2012 drew to a close, U.S. media erupted over the impending “fiscal cliff” and its potential to land the United States in a mild recession the following year.
Referring to the sharp decrease in the budget deficit resulting in the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts and planned spending cuts under the Budget Control Act of 2011, the cliff became the political hot topic of late December as proposed fixes split party lines. Additionally, the previously enacted “payroll tax holiday” – a two percent reduction in FICA withholdings intended to stimulate spending – was set to come to an end.
Despite the media’s attention, Professor of Economics Dr. Kevin Christ explained that “the ‘fiscal cliff’ was really more of a fiscal slope.”
“I call it a slope because the changes, if they had come into effect, were not going to have immediate or 'overnight' consequences on the economy (as much of the media coverage suggested), but would instead have introduced drag on the economy gradually during the first half of 2013.”
Christ added that the term “slope” is more appropriate because “there was always going to be a way to retrace steps and climb back up.”
Back-and-forth negotiations began seven months prior when the Senate passed a bill extending tax cuts for all but the wealthiest two percent, but the House rejected the proposal, contending that the cuts should continue in their entirety. With time quickly ticking off the clock, talks continued throughout the holiday season with majority leaders threatening to hold everyone from returning home.
Ultimately, Congress came to an agreement, passing to the president’s desk the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 which Obama signed into law on January 2. Intended to be a short-term resolution for the fiscal cliff, Christ detailed what the bill entails.
“Ultimately, the bill that Congress passed and that the President signed brought back a higher marginal tax rate only on annual incomes above $400,000. There were also five percent increases in tax rates on capital and dividend income, and the payroll tax holiday did go away,” Christ summarized, adding that the spending front was not addressed.
Since details of the bill were released, economic experts have ignited in debate over short-term and long-term implications of the decision. Arguing the full brunt of the “fiscal cliff” was unlikely to take effect, Christ says a recovering economy is not the best time to address long-term fiscal problems, adding that most of the current deficits are cyclical, not structural.
“[T]hey have arisen because we’ve experienced a deep and lingering economic contraction that reduced tax receipts and raised certain forms of government spending," he said. "If the economy were to vigorously recover, those cyclical components of our deficit would begin to melt away.”
While previous economic projections had growth around two or three percent, most forecasts have been greatly reduced, and Christ says that most likely means a drag on the economy.
“This wouldn’t be a major issue if the economy were perking along at 4 percent or 5 percent, but at our recent rates of economic growth, the introduction of these austerity measures now means that it is more likely that the economy will tread water in 2013," he said.
But at least the water level has slowly been going down. Many economists have noted an improvement in the housing market last year – the oft-cited Case-Shiiler Home Price Index rose 4.3 percent in the 12 months leading up to October – and the national unemployment rate has dipped to 7.8 percent.
With the initial fiscal cliff threat in the rearview mirror, Christ says the immediate economic concern is to work toward slow and steady growth.
“The major issue, in my mind, is not to balance our federal budget and solve all of our fiscal issues at once. This means not having our policy makers...unnecessarily introduce new sources of uncertainty and drag into our economic system.”
Last Thursday, the Leadership Advancement Program sponsored a seminar titled, “Trading Backpacks for Briefcases – A Guide to Etiquette and Professionalism.” Jason Scott Embry, the Executive Director of Development here at Rose-Hulman, led the discussion for students on having positive professional business interactions.
Embry is new to Rose-Hulman this year, and his work mainly involves fundraising activities. Through his employment at other institutions and his work with the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, he garnered significant respect for etiquette through all his interpersonal foundations.
He informed the audience of classic marks of professionalism, like keeping shoes shined and placing napkins in your lap during dinner, along with a short history of modern eccentricities. Embry also discussed the importance of etiquette in hiring decisions – a simple, professional business card, a handwritten thank you note, and other small gestures can significantly set candidates apart.
Most importantly, he stressed his ‘Rules Never to Be Broken,’ such as being sincere, considerate, respectful, and honest. Embry stressed that following these core principles is essential to all interpersonal communication. While permissible to not have memorized an exhaustive amount of information regarding the nuances of etiquette, but breaking any one of these rules will likely not fare well in the end.
Attendees found the seminar engaging and informative; the question and answer section following the main lecture lasted twice as long as predicted, and students found him to be a useful resource.
Embry’s seminar is among a series of seminars and events sponsored by the Leadership Academy to promote effective leadership in Rose-Hulman graduates.
Hellsing Ultimate: Because He is that EpicWe all know that, with the hype about vampires, they are all just people with complicated emotions, right? That they sparkle? And that they really only kill to eat, right? Wrong. Despite what most stories have done to one of the most feared monsters ever, there is anime that holds true to the roots of what the great monster is supposed to be."Hellsing Ultimate" follows the story of the vampire known as Alucard, a vampire who serves as the head of the Hellsing family- a family that has hunted vampires for generations and is now in charge of keeping Britain safe from the monsters. As such, it is his duty to hunt and kill them, something that it appears that he takes great pleasure in with a sadistic passion.Somewhere along the line, the militaristic division of the Catholic Church comes into play along with Nazis, who seek to wage endless war. Both these groups keep coming into conflict with the Hellsing Organization, which sends out it best agent, Alucard. This point needs to be made clear one more time: he is a monster that delights in bloodshed and fighting. The only thing he enjoys more than killing is actually fighting someone that can give him a challenge.Typically this anime tends to favor a one-sided slaughter in comparison to relatively even battles, where the opponent just might have a shot at winning. In some cases Alucard even refuses to take his enemies seriously, not even standing up as they shoot him full of bullets, which he just heals from while shooting half-heartedly back at them. What's worse is that if they actually manage to impress him, he will use a fraction of his full strength. At this point he drops almost all semblance of being human and once again returns to simply butchering his opposition.In order to make up for his power and significant lack of opponents who match his level, the anime decides to use a large number of opponents to even the scales. In the end these weaker opponents are just a way for him to show how evil he is as he continues to slaughter them.Alucard is the most memorable anime character I have seen yet, but it is not because of his charming personality and witty sense of humor. It is because he is one of few main characters in anime who is the way he is because that is how he wants to be. That is to say, he knows he is a monster and chooses to be so. That, and his humor has extremely good timing. It is worth watching "Hellsing Ultimate" just to see Alucard in action as well as other characters that manage to, in some ways, even keep up with him on a level of having interesting stories and personality.
HP Lovecraft meets The Walking Dead in this horror fantasy thriller. Only a month after celebrating its first half birthday, The Secret World announced it was removing its monthly fee and decreasing its initial price, making this game a steal at $30. As far as Massively Multiplayer Online games go, The Secret World appeals to a rather unusual crowd. The game focuses on storytelling and plot development rather than combat and dungeon raids. I just finished the first main plot line, and it took me nearly 3 weeks of constant playing. Nearly every mission is prefaced by several minutes of voice-acted cut scenes, experience debuffs are applied to missions above your level to encourage you to complete the story in order, and players are limited to a total of four missions at a time. All of this means that while there were several times I spent ten minutes wandering around looking for a quest I had passed only a half hour before didn't have room for at the time, I was fully aware of exact reason I had just finished hunting down a vicious Wraith.
The Secret World likes to mix things up to keep it interesting. Players are allowed seven active and seven passive abilities that can be chosen from a wheel of all the available abilities in the game, and you are only limited by the fact that you can only wield two weapons at a time. Mission types vary from the standard "go kill X of this enemy and retrieve this item", to searching with the in-game browser for obscure occult lore and puzzles that make Purdue students cry. Some complain that the game asks too much of players when it comes to thinking for yourself and that the story is over-developed and takes too much time to tell. If you're like me though, and a good story filled with monsters, magic, and characters with deep personalities is what you crave, The Secret World may be the game for you.
Overall I give this MMO 7/10 stars. Pros: great atmosphere, immensely detailed plot, versatile skill trees. Cons: Servers often get overloaded and have to reset, some puzzles are very nearly impossible, certain missions expect you to think so far outside the box that they are impossible unless you check an online guide.
In summary: this game requires a lot of time and patience, but if you are willing to sit through long cut scenes and spend a fair amount of time searching the Internet for advice, it's absolutely worth it.
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